Why do I need an EPIRB and what type do I need?

Here is why you need an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon EPIRB

In an era of advanced technology and connectivity, the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) stands as a beacon of hope in life-threatening situations. Whether you’re out at sea, exploring the wilderness, or engaging in any activity where rescue may be challenging, an EPIRB can be a literal lifesaver. Its ability to swiftly transmit your distress signal and provide accurate location data to rescue teams has saved countless lives and continues to be a vital tool for those who venture into the unknown. As mariners, understanding the importance of an EPIRB and ensuring its proper use, could make all the difference in an emergency.

Generally, most professional vessels are required through international or national regulations to carry an EPIRB on board, but an EPIRB as a life-saving device is also recommended to be carried on board leisure and pleasure vessels. In addition, a vessel sailing in potentially poor weather conditions such as high winds, poor visibility, or in remote locations, is recommended to have a Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz EPIRB onboard.

Since an EPIRB is an indispensable lifesaving device, let us delve into some key factors that explain why:

  1. Emergency Distress Signaling: EPIRBs are designed to send out a distress signal when you’re in a life-threatening situation. They can alert search and rescue authorities to your exact location, which is crucial for a timely response in emergency situations.
  2. Reliability: EPIRBs use satellite technology, making them highly reliable even in areas with poor or no cellular coverage. They are designed to operate in extreme conditions, such as heavy rain, rough seas, or high altitudes.
  3. Search and Rescue: EPIRBs help search and rescue teams locate and assist people in distress quickly, especially in remote or offshore locations where it may be challenging to communicate with authorities through other means.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: In many countries, certain activities or types of vessels are required by law to carry EPIRBs as part of safety regulations.
  5. Global Coverage: Most EPIRBs are equipped with GPS technology, which ensures accurate positioning. They work globally, covering remote and oceanic regions where other forms of communication may not be available.
  6. Maritime Safety: EPIRBs are mandatory safety equipment for many types of vessels, including commercial ships, fishing boats, and recreational boats that venture into open water. They provide a reliable means of communication in case of emergencies like sinking, fires, or medical crises.
  7. Aircraft Safety: In aviation, particularly for small aircraft and helicopters operating in remote areas, ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters, which are similar to EPIRBs) are required safety equipment. They can aid in locating crash sites and survivors.
  8. Outdoor Adventures: EPIRBs are also used by hikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts who venture into remote areas. If you get lost, injured, or face other life-threatening situations, activating an EPIRB can significantly improve your chances of being found and rescued.

What type of EPIRB do I need?

There are a variety of safety products available, therefore, it is important to be aware that not all frequencies and systems are recognized as primary alert signals, nor do all search and rescue organizations offer immediate response. Generally, an EPIRB is designed to meet necessary requirements for being installed on vessels. The design, specifications and required approvals, for example, automatic activation, distress signaling for minimum of 48 hours at -20°C, robustness and if it is watertight are essential.

An EPIRB approved in accordance with the latest product standards includes: 406MHz, 121.5MHz, Automatic Identification System (AIS), positioning (GPS) and optional Return Link System (RLS). In addition to both visual LED and IR-LED for prompter assistance during search and rescue. There is no doubt that the latest version of the product standard has resulted in the delivery of the most effective EPIRB ever available to the market. The safest EPIRB is one that is approved in accordance with IEC 61097-2 Ed.4 and is also wheelmark certified according to IMO MSC.471(101).


In summary, an EPIRB is a crucial safety device that can save lives by providing an accurate distress signal and location information to search and rescue teams during emergencies. Whether you’re out at sea, in the air, or exploring remote wilderness areas, having an EPIRB can greatly enhance your safety and increase the chances of a successful rescue in critical situations.

Wishing you a safe journey.

What is an EPIRB?
The history of the EPIRB
Here is how an EPIRB works